Jeremiah 14

This chapter is a dialogue of struggle between Jeremiah and God. They are talking about Israel, but to each other.

Jeremiah’s bleak message for the people rips him apart. His epic struggle to obey God is a key theme of the book, and an ironic one.

His love for the people makes it so painful for him to obey God and prophesy doom and gloom for them. Yet that obedience also contrasts so extremely with their disobedience that it helps make the case for the message.

God and Jeremiah are a bit like parents of a wayward child. They are so frustrated that they can’t reach the child, they start to turn on each other.

Here Jeremiah paints to God a vivid picture of how a series of droughts are affecting not just his people but his creatures and creation. There is a strong emotional plea, manipulation even, in it.

He doesn’t promise their repentance as such, he can’t, but he goads God to act because of his character. “Are you a stranger?” he asks, “a visitor, a confused old man? Aren’t you supposed to be a mighty warrior who loves his people?” It’s quite a way to speak to God!

“Nup, not happening” God essentially replies in quite blunt terms. “And stop praying for them.”

Jeremiah tries a different tack, arguing they have been misled by false prophets. He’s implying that it’s not their fault.

God promises the false prophets and the people will perish, and gives Jeremiah a true word to take to them, of them shattered; dead and unburied in the fields of battle, starving and sick in the cities.

Despite God’s prohibition, Jeremiah prays beautifully again for them to close the chapter.

We have a message for our world, the western part of which is experimenting with all sorts of affront to God. That includes some of the “chosen”, evangelical Christians, in my view. We can pray for them all we like, but at some point God wants us to act.


Jeremiah 13

Good for nothing.

God gets Jeremiah to act out a bit of theatre, putting on a noble priestly garment, a sash, which if he wore typical prophet attire would have apparently looked like wearing a cummerbund and a hessian sack. Quite a sight.

He went to the Euphrates, a long way, to the place the invasion would come from, and buried the sash.

Then he traveled back after a few months and dig it up. It was ruined, useless.

In my new job producing materials for churches, I find encouragement from God’s use of illustrative material. But the message is devastating.

They are good for nothing. From the chosen people to useless.

Comparisons go on to be drawn to drunks, ignorant and stupid. And the public humiliation of prostitutes.

All you can do is put it out there. You can’t force people to repent, Jeremiah should convince us of that.

But it’s also a good time to look at the hardness in my own heart. I’ve been struggling in a practical level with lollies and alcohol. I don’t have a huge problem, but do have a bit more of both than is good for me. How hard is self discipline!

Isaiah 50

God’s extraordinary love for us, and what he wants of us.

Intimate workings of the the messiah’s servanthood. 

It starts with the question “does God really care?” A striking divorce and debt metaphor is used by God to say “prove I have abandoned you… Where are the divorce papers, where is the bill of sale?”

We left him, he never left us. Very much to the contrary.

Second question “is God’s still in charge?” Fully. The examples of his might are arguably negative experiences, drying up rivers so that fish die, making the sky black. 

The Israelites no doubt felt enveloped by blackness. But the blackness is from God, the problem is that there is no one who will obey him. Enter the servant.

The servant word is not used but the ritual of servanthood, ear piercing, is referred to in verse 5. 

Israel’s slaves had a moment after 6 years of service where they could leave or stay. The ear piercing indicated the choice of a life of voluntary servanthood, and such is the messiah’s relationship to God the father.

His duties are to daily learn words that will sustain the weary. He is God’s servant, his duties are for us. 

Does God care? He gives his back to be whipped, his beard to be pulled out, suffers utter humiliation and disgrace.

Being God, he could back out at any time. He doesn’t have to suffer! But as a servant he sets his face like flint and bares it, trusting in God’s might through the darkness, knowing God’s is stronger than any evil.

The enemies of God are compared to clothes that will wear out. Empty suits.

So we, the weary, can choose to be sustained by his words though the darkness. Or we can take matters in our own hands which is here described as walking by the light of our own torches. That doesn’t seem unreasonable, using your own judgement, not God’s word to guide your way. But it will only lead to more torment.

God is like a loving parent in the night, coming to you when you fear the dark saying “don’t worry, you’ll get there” and behind it is the knowledge that no one loves you more out would give more for you.

This is a beautiful chapter, hard to follow without explanation. God cares and is strong enough to give himself for you without flinching at the pain of sacrifice.


Isaiah 36

Some plot! I’ve been starting to wonder about the structure of Isaiah’s many miscellaneous poems about destruction and disaster.  The text switches to prose for this chapter.

Assyria takes the northern kingdom, and then envoys come to threaten the southern, which includes Jerusalem. We get the conversation, which is taunting saying “who do you trust?” 

They are the strongest power. They laugh at the idea Egypt night help Israel. They joke at the idea God might help them, because king Hezekiah has removed the holy places they recognise out of his devotion to Jehovah.

They deliberately speak the common tongue so that the guards around can hear the sledging and be demoralised. 

The representatives of king Hezekiah say nothing, as instructed, and return to him in a state of fear, tearing their clothing.

End of chapter!


2 Kings 23

The rest of Josiah’s reign. In a sense he was greater than David. Certainly he was the most godly King since David.

It simply says he loved the lord with all his heart. And he leads the people in that love.  So he actually does remove all worship of other Gods.

He celebrates Passover for the first time since time judges, pre the monarchy.

David, to give him his credit, couldn’t because the temple wasn’t set up.

There is a plan in this blessing of God’s I think. It’s setting a precedent for how the temple worship would operate post exile, though to Jesus day. It’s the true coming of monotheism to Israel. He makes a point of destroying the golden calf set up at Bethel by jeroboam, which reaches right back in tradition to the rebellion of the people in the book of exodus.

It’s a blessing to end the book on, the other end of the scale from Solomon, who squandered so much in a way.

And it really is end game after Josiah. Two of his sons become king in quick succession after he is killed in battle by the Pharaoh. The second son is a puppet king for Pharaoh, virtually his tax collector.  Yes after rediscovering Passover for the first time in many years, they are slaves of Egypt again.


1 Kings 6

The finished temple is glorious. It’s a labour of love and devotion for God, as good as they can make it.

It’s that awkward place where you are doing great work “for God”, and you get a certain pride in it, and you start to wonder if it’s for your own glory quite a bit too. My hobby is writing Christian songs, and it’s there all the time.

But endlessly wondering about motives is also a waste of time. St Paul said as long as Christ is proclaimed, yeah?

When God finally speaks mid chapter I think he’s thinking along similar lines. He says “about this house you are building…” And goes on to say that if they follow the law he will keep his promise and dwell among his people. How is that about the house? House not strictly needed.

For the rest of the chapter the “he” is disconcertingly Solomon, as in “he covered this in pure gold” or “he covered that in finest cedar”.

God doesn’t need their devotion to be expressed though architecture or expensive finishes, he needs it in their heart.

May the use of my time be an overflow of what is in my heart. I’ve been feeling a bit resentful about the time given to silly things at church but that is a good spirit to bring to it

Song: “Bigger than Hillsong”


Deuteronomy 27

New section. We’ve had all the rules now committing to them and the transition of leadership to settle the holy land.

They take a moment of silence and the priests declare them to be God’s people. 

First thing they will do is climb two mountains. Mountains equal meeting God.

One will be for curses, one for blessings.

The curse mountain has all the law written on some of its stones, and an altar for sacrifice also piled up of its uncarved stones.

They’ll do a fellowship offering, ie: one that celebrates God’s presence rather than removing sin. And they will formally declare that rejecting God, being greedy, unfair, uncaring to the vulnerable or sexually immoral will bring God’s curse.

It is a marker, a baseline, a resolution they will be able to look back on and test their society against. When they are deep in an argument about tribal boundaries, they will look back on this moment and remember declaring before God as a nation that they would be cursed if they ever did this.

I don’t remember becoming a Christian, I don’t have a moment of dedication of my life to God. Like the Israelites who would be born in the promised land, I have the choice to accept or forget every day the faith I was handed down by my parents. I pray for my children, and my witness to them. 


Deuteronomy 4

Spoiler alert for the rest of the Old testament.

Moses continues his final words before they all go to the promised land without him.

He focuses on the ban against idols. He wants them not to forget about it after a few generations or they will be overrun and exiled. He says that even if that happens God’s mercy will mean they are eventually returned.  As I said, spoiler alert.

The overall message is that there is one true God who deserves obedience. It serves as an introduction to a dissertation of the law.

One true God. If he is forgotten and other gods take over, it is a disaster, but his abiding character is mercy, and he will bring us back.

Praise him!


Exodus 39

The priestly garments. Yes, they are just like God specified on the mountain. The fringe of alternating pomegranate tassels and bells is a great detail.

Moses inspects everything, this amazing collection of items lovingly made to god’s specification from freely offered materials, and blesses it. The climax of almost 10 chapters describing their effort.

Live by his word and be blessed, eh?


2 Samuel 6

I’m getting old testament fatigue again. Reading the whole Bible means reading a lot of old testament… In terms of words it’s a ratio of about 3:10. 

And OT is exhaustingly culturally remote. You figure out one fiendishly difficult chapter one day and then there is another the next. Boom boom boom. It’s tiring. 

If you forget the hard bits, this one is quite simple and wonderful and momentous. David is king over united Israel. He has established Jerusalem as the capital, now he brings the ark in, the presence of God.

And David dances like a crazy humble loon as it is carried in, one of the Bible’s most appealing visions of pure joy in the whole Bible. 

But it’s so uncomfortable that a person dies, and a woman is seemingly struck barren for getting the tone wrong. 

And what is with the ark anyway. I thought God wanted to teach mankind that he lives in or hearts, why this object of veneration?

I turned to a commentary. They saw it, interestingly as a parable for ministry. 

The first attempt to get the ark back was where someone died. They made a special cart for it … God commanded that it be carried. When it fell, the guy who died reached out to steady it. God said you can’t touch it. He should have let it fall.

David was angry with god’s over the death, and left the ark out of Jerusalem for a long time after that. 

The commentators compared it to Christians who try to do what God wants, but do it their own way. In their enthusiasm to just “get it done” they fixated too much on the task and forgot the larger point that this was about honouring God. Disobedience does not honour God. 

I remember a church I was at was obsessed with the idea that the old pews were restricting their ministry, and started pulling them out without getting the necessary legal council permission. I think that was a small example of this principle. God doesn’t need our special cart.

Death was a strong way of teaching that, you may think, but God is creator, life is in his hands, we’ve learned that over and over by now. 

The woman who was barren was Michal, who is the ultimate bit player in this story. She was Saul’s daughter and David’s first wife. She helped him escape Saul, and then was given seemingly into bigamy as wife to another king by Saul, then called back at a tense point in the civil war. 

She has strong ideas how a king ought to act and dancing with no kingly dignity with the people in few clothes was not one of them. 

But she was letting her sense of what is proper kill her enthusiasm for God, sort of the opposite of the first attempt with the ark. 

The commentators noted that it is merely an editorial comment, not linked to god’s judgement that she never had children. 

We’ve learned in this book in particular to pay attention to that… Things aren’t of God just because they are there, you have to have it spelled out. It’s more like the tone of journalism than sermon.

They saw it as an ironic or symbolic observation by the writer of 2 Samuel. Her personal story echoed a spiritual barrenness that had characterised Saul’s reign. she remained too caught up in the pomp of earthly kingship, and less excited by heavens king.

So we’re all set up for Israel’s most glorious period. But the warnings are there too. With joy in God ‘s times of rich blessing remember obedience and humility.